A look inside the glamorous life of a tv extra

Things have been quiet in my shop , no whirs of the sewing machine or tapping away furiously at my laptop. This is because I am embracing my acting passion and performing as an extra over the course of 5 days on the tv show filming in my hometown: The librarians.
Portland has become a Mecca for filming, and I have already had the opportunity to be on the hit tv show Grimm as well.

I cannot reveal what I am doing in The Librarians.You will have to wait till January, episode 8. I can however recount my experiences as an extra, and give some insight on what it is like to be on a TV set. I feel like I have done enough gigs to call myself a seasoned extra. Mm, seasoned. I’m super hungry now. More on that later.

I often hear that extras are the lowest on the totem pole of tv stardom. While this can be deemed as having a little truth, it does not reveal the whole story. When you are watching your favorite show, with your favorite actors , do you notice what goes on in the background? All those people sitting in restaurants, walking on streets, looking quite ” normal”. Those extras weren’t already there. They were hired to be background extras. That’s right, we get paid to walk, sit, act like zombies, be a doctor, policeman, etc. The list goes on. We provide ‘noise’ in an otherwise silent world; we give life to the environment making it look, sound, and feel realistic. So while yes, we may eat last, or not be allowed to speak to the actors( there are valid reasons for this). We sit in rooms for long periods of time waiting our turn for a moment of fame. That does not deem us low on the totem pole.

My experience with extra work has always been a positive one, but it definitely isn’t for everyone. Let me break down the positive and negatives for you, but let me preface this by saying that the negatives are truly not that negative. They turn into positives in the end and are all part of creating something magical :

Negatives :
Early call times , often at 5-6am
Long shoot times, sometimes 12-15 hours a day
A lot of waiting. A lot. Sometimes you may shoot all day sometimes 5 minutes, with the rest of the day spent waiting in a holding room.Often you may sit and not be called at all
Driving to far away shoot locations
Having to bring your own costume( unless it is a period piece)

Positives :
Often standing next to your favorite stars
Learning how a show or movie is shot
Eating the amazing catered meals ( they feed you good !)
The kind and helpful folk
Being paid to sit,although being on set is MUCH more exciting
Meeting new people, making new friends

Overall, being an extra is an amazing experience. You won’t get famous, but you will get to brush elbows with the stars,get an inside look on how they film shows,and you’ll get paid for doing it! Also , while not required, having some experience is great! You will need to act in the background after all!


*Did you know that when you see extras talking in the background, they are just mouthing? No words are coming out! This is so we can here the actors. Sound and music is added later.

*Most food is not real( although sometimes it is), coffee cups usually have no liquid in them( we don’t need accidents)!

* places are usually sets. Example a hospital room may never be filmed at an actual hospital, just in a dressed up room! That is the magic of tv and movies, making it look” real”!

I will leave you with this quote from Molly Shannon’s character in : Superstar!

” If you believe in yourself then nobody can hurt you. You are your own rainbow”

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